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History Of Harvard Sports

1914: Crew Wins Henley


The Harvard crew had outstroked Yale easily every year since 1909, and this year, 1914, was expected to be no different. But, the Yalies scored a stunning upset, coming from behind in the last eighth mile to beat the Harvards by a few inches.

It was a spectacular achievement. For Harvard, however, it was another blow in a year of disasters. Their first eight had been declared ineligible for the Henley Regatta. The Grand Challenge Cup Committee had excluded the first boat because of a rule that a crew must have an amatuer coach during its last six weeks of training.

It was decided to enter the second eight, coached by Robert F. Herrick '90, captain and stroke of the 1889 crew.

That there was a second boat at all was a marvellous stroke of luck. Before 1914, Harvard had never bothered with a B-team eight. The second team traditionally rowed a four man shell, and the larger boat was new to all of them.

The second crew consisted of Captain Leverett Saltonstall '14 in the bow, James Talcott Jr. '14, Henry Meyer '15, William and Henry Middendorf '16, David P. Morgan '16, Louis Curtis '14, Charles C. Lund '16, at one to seven and Coxswain Henry L. F. Kreger '16.

Herrick took them to Philladelphia to race on the Schuykill River. Leverett Saltonstall later would tell the CRIMSON that this experience was the turning point in their preparations: the Harvards won two races at the same distance they would race on the Thames.

Saltonstall & Co. sailed for England on a British steamer "The Olympic." They were greeted with amusement by the natives. "We had brought our own water supply," remembers Saltonstall, "as we heard that it took ten days to get acclimated to the change, and we only planned to stay four."

On July 2nd, Harvard was paired first against the Leander Rowing Club, the best of the British eights. The London Morning Post called it a splendid struggle." Leander took the lead, but the Americans, rowing "with great dash," overtook them before the half way marker, and won by a length.

All four of the British crews had lost in the opening races, in the greatest national tragedy since Victoria's death. Foreign possession of the Challenge Cup was unavoidable, but there was now a solid chance that, for the first time, the colonies might win it. In addition to the young Harvards, the "old Harvards"--the Union Boat Club of Boston--had won its first race.

On July 3rd, the men from Cambridge met the Winnepeg Rowing Club.

The next opponent--The Winnipeg Rowing Club--planned to run away from Harvard at the start and then try to hold on at the finish. The Canadians pulled mightily, but their American adversaries, rowing at a slower pace, would not be shaken.

Winnipeg's early advantage shrank slowly, and by the three quarter mark, Canada found itself at a length disadvantage. Now it was the Harvards who had to hold on, and they did, easily, to win in the time of seven minutes flat.

The Boston crew also won, so a Yankee final was set--appropriately enough--for July 4th: "They had beaten the German crew by only a narrow margin, the day before," Leverett Saltonstall would later recall, "and they weren't at their best for us."

The Boston rowers set a slow pace; at the half-mile marker, both shells were rowing thirty-two strokes a minute. Then Harvard gradually stretched its meager four foot lead. The space between the two crafts widened to a length. In desperation the Union Boat increased its stroking, but they seemed to observers to be fighting with the river rather than gliding through it. The Harvards won by a length and a quarter, in the time of 7 minutes and 20 seconds.

The Crimson had won in a watery walk. Stroking easily, the boat captured the admiration of the British press. London Field Magazine noted "the lightening quickness of their hands, a method which would appear to be a lost art among modern English oarsmen."

Fifty years later, the same nine men would return to the Thames and celebrate their feat. They would be given medals from the Queen. They would be bankers, lawyers, chemists, industrialists, and Saltonstall would be Governor and later Senator from Massachusetts.

But this day, they did not realize that Harvard crews would grow to dominate America; Harvard would win three more Grand Challenge Cups. But this day, with a world war scarcely a month away, they did not care. Harvard had won the Henley

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